IF THEY SHALL FALL AWAY
ARLEN L. CHITWOOD.
[The following exposition of Hebrews 6: 3-6, is from a chapter out of the author's book: "Let Us Go ON"]
"And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6: 3-6).
The announcement has gone forth, "through the Church," to Satan and his angels in the heavens, that they are about to be replaced. Both "Christ," the Head, and the "Church," the body, are on hand, awaiting that day. And Satan, through a knowledge of this fact, can only know that his time is short and his days are numbered.
Christ has shown Himself fully qualified to take the [millennial] kingdom* (Matt. 4: 1-11), He has paid redemption's price to redeem fallen man so man can be brought back into the position for which he was created in the beginning (cf. Gen. 1: 26, 28; 3: 15; John 19: 30.), and the Holy Spirit is in the world today calling out the bride** who will ascend the throne with the Son in that coming day.
[* Christ has two kingdoms. Here it is the millennial kingdom upon this earth for “a thousand years” (Rev. 20: 4, 6). This is the kingdom which will remain until the time when Christ/Messiah “delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15: 24, 25, R.S.V.). It will be replaced with His eternal kingdom in - “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). “He who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (verse 5).
** Keep in mind: the Bride is not the Church – members of the body of Christ - but are those (from all dispensations) which aretaken out of ‘the Last Adam’s ‘BODY,’ as Eve was taken out of the First Adam’s body. Gen. 2: 21; Rev. 19: 8. It is not the imputed righteousness of Christ that one gains entrance into the coming millennial kingdom, but the disciple’s STANDARD OF PERSONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. Matt. 5: 20.]
And Satan and his angels don't any more like the thought of Christ and Christians one day occupying the heavenly places which they presently occupy than the Gentile nations in the land of Canaan almost 1,500 years ago (under Satan's direction and control) liked the thought of the Israelites coming in and occupying that land in their stead. Thus, the warfare of Eph. 6: 11 rages.
And, because of this warfare, Christians are called upon to make the necessary preparations. They are called upon to properly array themselves for the ongoing "battle," a battle which is very real. And there is a "prize" in view, which is also very real - that of one day being accorded the privilege of occupying a position as co-heir with Christ in His [millennial] kingdom (cf. Phil. 3: 10-14); and this prize can be either won (through overcoming in the battle) or lost (through being overcome in the battle).
Then the third major warning in Hebrews (chapters 5 & 6) centres around Genesis 14: 18, 19 for its spiritual lessons - the only historic account of Melchizedek in the entire Old Testament (Psalm 110: 4, the only other reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament, draws from Genesis 14: 18, 19). And though the account is very brief, it is fraught beyond compare with spiritual significance. The whole of that which is taught in the spiritual lessons in Hebrews, chapters five through seven draws primarily from the whole of that which is taught surrounding Melchizedek in this one Old Testament passage.
was a king-priest in
The writer of Hebrews dealt with this subject (Heb. 5: 1-10), then he dealt with spiritual babies "in Christ" who were not mature enough to understand these things (5: 11-14), and then he exhorted these immature Christians to leave the foundational truths and go on unto maturity (6: 1, 2).
And there is no getting around one central truth in this section of Scripture: Maturity in the faith, as it is set forth in Hebrews 5: 1- 6: 2, has to do with coming into a knowledge and understanding of those things which the Word of God reveals concerning that future day when Christ reigns over the earth as the great King-priest, "after the order of Melchizedek." That which is stated in Hebrews 6: 3 ("And this will we do, if God permit") and the heart of the warning itself in Hebrews 6: 4-6 ("For it is impossible ... ") MUST be understood within the framework of that which has preceded. These verses must, contextually, be understood as having to do with Christians [regenerate believers] coming into a knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ's coming [millennial] reign over the earth.
Reading into Hebrews 6: 4-6 the thought of [eternal] salvation by grace through faith (as so many do) is not only completely out of line with the context but it is also completely out of line with any Scriptural teaching concerning salvation by grace through faith, beginning with the opening two chapters of Genesis. The context has to do with Christian maturity (which centres on coming into an understanding of specific future things, for a revealed purpose); and salvation by grace through faith centres around the Christians' present possession (based on the finished works of the Triune Godhead - (1) the finished work of the Son at Calvary, and (2) the finished work performed in the life of the believer [performed on the basis of and made possible through the Son's previous and finished work]).
Hebrews 6: 4-6 has to do strictly with God's present and future work in the lives of Christians, not with His past work, effecting their present position, "in Christ." This section of Scripture is written to and has to do solely with those who are already saved, and it has to do specifically with bringing these saved individuals into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ's coming reign over the earth, as King-priest, " after the order of Melchizedek."
AND THIS WE WILL DO IF ...
Hebrews 6: 3 should be taken at face value. That is, "We will go on unto maturity [vv. 1,2], if God permits us to go on." And one is then left with the thought that God will not permit some Christians to go on unto maturity.
Leading into Hebrews 6: 3, the writer had previously reprimanded a group of Christians for their lack of spiritual maturity. They had been saved for a sufficient length of time that all of them should have been well enough grounded in the Word that they could do two things: (1) be able to understand the teachings surrounding the coming of Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, and (2) be able to teach others these things as well (5: 10-14).
Then, following the reprimand, the writer exhorted these same Christians to leave "the first principles [the rudimentary things of the Christian faith]" and "go on unto perfection [maturity in 'the faith']" (5: 12; 6: 1, 2).
Then after this comes the statement that going on unto maturity is conditional. It is conditioned on God allowing the person to go on. But bear in mind that this is not maturity in what might be considered a general sense; rather, the reference is to maturity in a specific sense. This is maturity in that which Scripture calls "the faith" or "the word [or ‘message’ N.I.V.] of the kingdom" (cf. Matt. 13: 19; 1 Tim. 6: 12; Jude 3) - maturity in things surrounding Christ's coming reign over the earth "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5: 10ff).
Thus, the writer is dealing with a specific realm of Biblical teaching which is little understood by Christendom today. And this would provide the basic explanation (in conjunction with the working of the leaven in Matt. 13: 33) for the existing situation. Not only is there a present lack of knowledge (much less an understanding) concerning this whole overall message in Christendom but something even beyond this exists. Along with the lack of knowledge (and understanding), an overt aversion - more often than not - is exhibited toward any teaching on the subject.*
[* An ever increasing number of regenerate believers
are becoming A-millennialist! The editor was told that it was “dangerous” for him to be using the word
‘millennial’! Is there a better
adjective to describe the kingdom over which Jesus Christ will be the “King of kings and Lord of lords?” Is it not a dangerous to distort the truth by
spiritual interpretations which make the Word of God ineffective?; and is it
not a “dangerous,” to be seeking to destroy “the faith” of some by neglect of the numerous divine
prophecies, which are awaiting their literal fulfilment? Psa. 72; Isa. 2:1-4;
(Note, by way of passing, that an aversion of this nature invariably emanates from two spheres: (1) ignorance rather than knowledge, and (2) immaturity rather than maturity.
And, projecting the matter out to the end of the dispensation [this evil age], this is the message Christ will not find being taught to Christians in the Churches at the time of His return. Though this is the central message which Christians are supposed to hear once they have been grounded in the rudimentary things of the Word, Christ stated that by the end of the dispensation, at the time of His return, conditions will have become so completely contrary to the way they should exist that He will not find "faith [lit., 'the faith'] on the earth" (Luke 18: 8).
The reason why God will not allow certain Christians to go on into an understanding of these truths is given in the verses which immediately follow (vv. 4-6), which comprise the heart of the warnings itself. Verse three forms a connection between that which has preceded and that which follows; and this verse must, accordingly, be understood in the light of the complete context - verses both preceding and following.
Very briefly, note the verses leading into Heb. 6: 3 before going on to the explanation. These verses explain the matter from the standpoint of one type, and then the explanation explains it from the standpoint of another type.
Hebrews, chapter five draws its spiritual lessons from Genesis, chapter fourteen (and Psalm 110, which also draws from Gen. 14.) The subject has to do with Abraham meeting Melchizedek following the battle of the kings.
Melchizedek, at this time, brought forth "bread and wine" and blessed Abraham, "of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14: 17-19). This, of course, points to that day in the antitype, following the battle of the kings (Rev. 19: 17-21), when Christ comes forth with "bread and wine" - as King-priest, "after the order of Melchizedek" - to bless Abraham and his descendants*, both heavenly and earthly (Matt. 26: 29).
[* This blessing must include certain regenerate believers also since: “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is neither male or female; for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, THEN YOU ARE ABRAHAM’S OFFSPRING, HEIRS ACCORDING TO PROMISE:” (Gal. 3: 28, R.S.V.). But, we who are regenerate must take care because in the same letter and addressing the same redeemed people of God, the inspired apostle says: “… I warn YOU, as I warned you before, that those who do such things SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD:” (5: 21).
It is divine warnings like this one which are being glossed over and ignored by the vast majority of Bible expositors today! How can Paul’s words of warning be applicable to any other than those who are regenerate? and how can they refer to eternal life, to be enjoyed in an eternal kingdom in: “A new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21: 1)? The eternal kingdom and eternal life, will be enjoyed by ALL the regenerate of all ages; but only after this earth will “pass away … and the elements be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it … burned up” (2 Pet. 3: 10).]
note something about the type, which must carry over into the antitype.
Abraham, after meeting Melchezedek, no longer
manifested any interest in the things of this world. The king of
"I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, 'I have made Abraham rich': Save only that which the young men have eaten ... " (Gen. 14: 22- 24).
met Melchizedek, Abraham manifested total disinterest in that which the king of
through this experience, could only have gained a whole new perspective on the
present in relation to the future, and vice versa. Thus, Abraham,
relative to the magnanimous offer of the king of
And this is where Christ comes into the picture in prophecy as the great King-Priest, "after the order of Melchizedek." The Father - "the Possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14: 22) - has given all that He possesses unto the Son (cf. Gen. 24: 36; 25: 5; John 16: 13-15); and that coming day, with the Son occupying both His own throne in the heavens and David's throne on the earth, blessings will flow out to the Gentile nations through the seed of Abraham ("possessor of heaven and earth [through inheritance]") from both heavenly and earthly spheres.
And when a Christian sees [the coming “glory” of] Christ, within this framework, as King-Priest, "after the order of Melchizedek," this should drive him to manifest the same attitude toward the things of this world as Abraham manifested toward the things of the world after he met Melchizedek. In the words of the song, "the things of this world" should "grow strangely dim." The Christian should possess an entirely new perspective on the present in relation to the future, and vice versa.
But, how often is the preceding really the case in the lives of Christians? How many really understand these things? Or, how many really view matters within the framework of the light of His glory and grace?
And therein lies the secret to questions surrounding Heb. 6: 3. We are dealing with the very choicest of God's choice things which He has set aside for Christians, and God has placed certain conditions around allowing Christians to move into a knowledge of the Son in this realm (cf. Phil. 3: 10-14). God knows what is in man; and He also knows what man coming into a knowledge and understanding of these things will, too often, do.
God knows that numerous Christians, are coming into a knowledge and understanding of Christ as King-Priest, "after the order of Melchizedek," would not manifest the same attitude at all toward the world as Abraham manifested after he met Melchizedek. They would, instead, either continue in or one day return to their worldly interest and involvement (cf. 1 John 2: 15-17), which is within a world presently ruled by Satan and his angels. And by so doing, such Christians could only bring shame upon Christ's name (this will be further dealt with later in the article within the framework of that which is stated in v. 6).
The matter surrounding God allowing or not allowing a Christian to go on unto maturity though should be viewed more within the framework of man's attitude toward these things than it should within the framework of God's omniscience per se. Scripture clearly states, "If any man will do ['is willing to do'] his will, he shall know the doctrine ..." (John 7: 17).
That is, Do you really want to know Christ as "author ['source'] of eternal* salvation [*salvation for the age (the Messianic Era)]"? (Heb. 5: 9). Are you serious about the present warfare and one day coming into realisation of the proffered inheritance? If so, there should be no reason why God would not allow you to go on into a knowledge and understanding of the various things surrounding His Son's coming reign over the earth.
But, if on the other hand, an interest in and a seriousness about the matter are not present, there is no Biblical reason why God should allow such a person to go on into a knowledge and understanding of these things. In fact, within a Biblical perspective, the opposite would exist instead. From a Biblical perspective, God would not allow such a person to go on, for a revealed reason.
And with this in mind, we're ready to go on into the heart of the warning and see the explanation to verse three from the perspective of another type.
FOR IT IS IMPOSSIBLE ...
Hebrews 6: 4-6 is looked upon by numerous Christians as probably the most difficult, and sometimes controversial, passage in all Scripture. And the reason why the passage is looked upon after this fashion is because of an erroneous interpretative approach. The passage is invariably approached from the standpoint of teachings surrounding the Christians' presently possessed eternal salvation - salvation "by grace through faith."
The passage though, as previously stated, doesn't deal with this subject. And, not dealing with this subject, it is understandable why those who seek to interpret the passage from the standpoint of teachings surrounding [eternal] salvation by grace through faith find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. And not only is this the case, but they also invariably find themselves being forced into erroneous views concerning [eternal] salvation.
Then, beyond the preceding, the correct subject matter is not even being dealt with. Rather, through this erroneous interpretative approach, the correct subject matter is, instead, being completely obscured. And such can only foster the present work of the enemy as it is outlined in 2 Cor. 4: 4 - blinding the minds of Christians relative to "the gospel of the glory of Christ" (A S V).
Contextually, Heb. 6: 4-6 must be looked upon as dealing with four basic issues surrounding Christians, from the standpoint of possibility: (a) Christians coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ as King-Priest, "after the order of Melchizedek," (b) the same Christians falling away (apostatising), (c) that which would befall such Christians, and (d) how such an act on the part of Christians would negatively reflect upon Christ Himself.
These four issues will be dealt with under two subsequent headings. Issues under "a" and "b" will be dealt with under the first; then issues under "c" and "d" will be dealt with under the second.
1. Once Enlightened ... but Fell Away
Certain descriptive words appearing in verses four and five make it virtually impossible to look upon these verses as describing unsaved [unregenerate] people.
There is the word "enlightened" (v. 4), which is used in Hebrews 10: 32, translated "illuminated." And according to 1 Cor. 2: 14, "the natural man" cannot be enlightened or illuminated in spiritual matters. Then, beyond that, the passage is dealing with things other than the "milk" of the Word; it is dealing with "strong meat" (5: 12-14).
there is the word, "tasted" (vv 4,5). This is
the same word used for Christ tasting
death "for every man" in Heb. 2: 9. The experiences entered into by
those in Heb. 6: 4, 5 must be looked upon as a tasting to the same extent that
Christ tasted "death" at
And the last descriptive word is "partakers" (v. 4). This is the same word translated "fellows" in Heb. 1: 9 and "partakers" in Heb. 3: 1, 14. This is the word metochoi, which could be better translated, "companions." It is used in chapters one and three describing Christ's co-heirs, His companions, in the coming day of His power.
Being "enlightened," tasting "of the heavenly gift," tasting "the good word of God," and tasting "the powers of the world [Age] to come" form a description of Christians progressively coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Melchizedek from chapter five. It, thus, has to do with Christians falling away after coming into this mature state is drawn from the type dealt with prior to the introduction of Melchizedek in chapter five - the Israelites under Moses (Heb. chapters 3 & 4).
The Israelites under Moses passed through similar experiences within the framework of their earthly calling, climaxed by their hearing the report of the twelve spies and tasting the actual fruits of the land which they had brought back with them. And that which happened to the Israelites at this point (in the type) is where one must go in order to understand the falling away and accompanying statements (in the antitype) in Heb. 6: 6.
The Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea were in possession of the Word of God (received at Sinai), God dwelling in their midst (in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, built and erected at Sinai), they had heard the report of the spies, and they had tasted the actual fruits of the land (brought back by the spies). And occupying this position, they were then ready to enter the land, conquer and possess the land, and subsequently realise their calling in the land as God's firstborn son.
They, at this point, were in possession of what could only be looked upon as a mature knowledge of the whole matter. They understood their calling and that which lay out ahead. And it is at this point that they fell away and, within the framework of that stated in the antitype in Heb. 6: 4-6, found it impossible to be renewed "again unto repentance."
2. Impossible to Renew Again ... Because ...
The report which the spies brought back concerning the land was both positive and negative. It was a good land, flowing with "milk and honey"; but the inhabitants, which included ‘the Nephilim,’ were strong and lived in walled cities (Num. 13: 26-29, 32, 33).
Caleb and Joshua, exhorting the people, said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." But the remaining spies said, "We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we" (Num. 13: 30, 31).
They, in the words of the antitype, fell away. They had turned their back upon God, and God, correspondingly, turned His back upon them. Because of that which had transpired, the most severe judgement possible was pronounced upon the entire accountable generation. Every single individual comprising that generation, twenty years old and above, save Caleb and Joshua, was to be overthrown in the wilderness.
And once this apostasy had occurred (with its corresponding produced judgement), there could be no renewal "again unto repentance" (as in the antitype). And the reason, drawing again from the antitype ("crucify to themselves the Son of God"), is because they had brought shame and reproach upon the One (God) dwelling in their midst, Who was to lead them victoriously into the land.
("Repentance" simply means a change of mind. And in both the type and antitype, the change of mind is on the part of God, not on the part of the Israelites [type] or on the part of Christians [antitype].
The Israelites, the very next day, repented (changed their minds). They "rose up early" and sought to "go up unto the place" which the Lord had promised. But the Lord didn't repent (He didn't change His mind). He was no longer with them relative to their entering the land and victoriously combating the enemy; and, consequently, the Israelites, trying to enter apart from the Lord's leadership, were smitten and driven back (Num. 14: 40-45).
And that's what Heb. 6: 4-6 is about. If God allows a Christian to come into a mature knowledge of His Son's coming reign as King-Priest, "after the order of Melchizedek," and that Christian apostatises, the same thing will occur as that which occurred with the Israelites under Moses (it would have to, for the antitype must follow the type in exact detail.
The Christian would be cut off insofar as those things surrounding his calling were concerned. He would not be allowed to subsequently enter that heavenly land to which he had been called and victoriously combat the enemy therein. He could never be brought back to the position which he had previously occupied. Which is to say, he could not be renewed "again unto repentance."
Though the Christian may later change his mind
about the matter (as the Israelites did), God would not change His mind
(as in the type).
The Christian, like the Israelites, would be overthrown on the right
side of the blood - [i.e., overthrown
in the desert as they journeyed toward their inheritance in the land out ahead,
and after finding salvation in
the reason for such severe judgement on God's part results from the fact that,
through this act, such a Christian could only bring shame and reproach upon the
name of Christ. Note the entire expression, "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh ['afresh' is not in the Greek text, though implied], and put him to an open shame" (v 6). The thought has to do with the shame
and reproach surrounding
But subjecting the Son to this type shame and reproach at the hands of the world is very possible today; and such shame and reproach can result from the act of any Christian falling away in the antitype of the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea.
A Christian though, to fall away after this fashion, would have to do two things: (a) He would first have come into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ's coming [millennial] reign over the earth, and (b) he would then have to apostatise after the same fashion in which the Israelites apostatised (looking away from Moses and the land [an earthly land], back to Egypt; that is, looking away from Christ and the land - [the millennium, in the age to come] - back to the [present] world - [during this evil age]).
doing this, a Christian would be subjection God's Son to the same type humiliation
and shame which He experienced at
And this is something which God will not allow. Thus, the verse, "And this will we do [we will go on to maturity in the things surrounding Christ's coming reign over the earth], if God permit [if God permits us to go on]."